The cars : Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Standard (1968-73)

Chris Cowin turns his attention to an oft-forgotten example of base model brilliance, the Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Standard.

You won’t have found many at the dealers, as they would want to upsell you to a De Luxe, but this base model wasn’t that basic.


When entry level is good enough

Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Standard

This article isn’t about the regular XJ6 2.8 (called De Luxe in 1968) but the rare and cheaper Standard model that slotted below it in price lists. This is undoubtedly one of the posher base models you’ll come across, but it’s good to highlight Browns Lane’s idea of entry-level.

Jaguar always prided itself on offering value for money. So, when the widely-acclaimed new Jaguar XJ6 was introduced in Britain in late 1968, there was (on paper) a choice of three models.

Below the well-known XJ6 2.8 litre and XJ6 4.2 litre (described in brochures as De Luxe models and priced at £1938 and £2303 respectively in early 1969, according to Motoring Which magazine) there was also a Standard XJ6 2.8 listed at £1836 (manual) with a reduced specification.

If you were shopping around within British Leyland’s line-up, that made it just £6 more than Rover’s (automatic only) 3500 (P6) saloon and a lot less than the big old Rover 3.5 Litre (P5B) saloon at £2222 (also automatic only). The Triumph 2.5 PI saloon (Mk1) was listed at £1481 while Austin 3 Litre prices started at £1507 (all prices include tax).

A tougher steer

This base Jaguar lacked power steering, which was undoubtedly the biggest deletion. But it also came without leather seats (having Ambla instead), and lacked a central rear armrest, rear door pockets, rear seat heating ducts and the useful storage cubby/armrest between the front seats, which was replaced by a simple oddments tray.

If an opera-loving couple had booked a Jaguar to go down to Glyndebourne in 1969 they might have felt a little shortchanged if an XJ6 2.8 Standard had appeared at the door. Those Series 1 short wheelbase cars were a little tight in the rear, and they’d be perched on man-made Ambla seats rather than leather.

There’d be no door pockets to store the programme and no central armrest to lean on as the car took the bends on the A23.

Jaguar XJ6 armrest
The armrest/compartment between the front seats and leather upholstery were among the items deleted from the Jaguar XJ6 2.8 Standard model. This unit housed the duct for rear seat heating – so that was deleted as well from the 2.8 Standard.

What else was missed off the spec sheet?

Rear seat heating and ventilation were lacking, but with no headrests to get in the way you’d have a clear view of the sweat on the chauffeur’s neck as he struggled with the unassisted steering when parking. On the other hand, the superb ride and quietness of the XJ6 were preserved intact.

Few of these price leaders were built it appears (though a similar reduced specification is likely to have been seen on vehicles supplied to the police).

It should be noted that although the XJ6 2.8 Standard model was the cheapest XJ6 in 1968/69, it was not the cheapest Jaguar, being undercut by the Jaguar 240 which remained in production into 1969 (as did the Daimler 250 V8, which also cost less).

Changing times

Inflation was forcing all car manufacturers to raise prices but, by the time of the British Motor Show in October 1969, Jaguar could still advertise Jaguar XJ6 prices as being from £1,999, thanks to the XJ6 2.8 Standard model which from that time onwards was the entry-level Jaguar saloon. The long-standing belief of Sir William Lyons that Jaguar should offer the customer value for money lived on.

The cannily priced XJ6 2.8 Standard model allowed Jaguar to price below the psychologically important £2000 threshold at the 1969 motor show, even though the smaller Jaguar 240 had been finally dropped.

A lot of equipment later taken for granted on a Jaguar – such as electric front windows and radio – was still optional even on the XJ6 2.8 De Luxe. Both the 2.8 Standard and 2.8 De Luxe came with a choice of manual, manual with overdrive or automatic transmission. The latter two options cost extra.

The new Daimler Sovereign, similar in all but detail to the XJ6, joined the range in late 1969. But unsurprisingly that was not available in Standard form, but only with the full Deluxe package in both 2.8 or 4.2 litre form. The Daimler manual versions were always equipped with overdrive.

With demand for the new Jaguar XJ6 exceeding the company’s ability to build them for several years to come, you might expect the Standard model to have quickly disappeared from official price lists. But it was still being mentioned going into 1972.

Shifting upmarket

However, Jaguar’s XJ lineup then moved decisively upmarket with the XJ12 joining the range in mid-1972, while the 2.8 litre model (both Standard and De Luxe) faded away.

The XJ6 4.2 was really the definitive XJ6 (in all three Series) and, even in 1968, the 4.2 De Luxe had (apart from the engine) a few other features not shared with the 2.8 Deluxe or 2.8 Standard, such as chrome wheel trims and the availability (as an option) of air conditioning.

When the Series 2 models were introduced in late 1973 the XJ6 2.8 models were not replaced (except for a few Series 2 2.8 cars exported to France).

In 1975, the new Jaguar XJ6 3.4 arrived as a substitute, but as a standalone model with no Standard version being offered to the general public. Though the Series 2 XJ6 3.4 lacked leather seats, electric windows or head restraints it had most of the features included as part of the De Luxe package in 1968, including power steering and rear heating ducts.

The Jaguar XJ6 2.8 (in either Standard or De Luxe form) was never marketed in North America, and on the home market cars equipped with the 2.8 variant of the XK engine acquired a reputation for engine trouble. This perhaps explains their deletion from the UK market in October 1972. Burning valve seats, carbon deposits on the piston heads and blown pistons all get a mention in the roster of complaints.

It might be imagined the 2.8 litre XJ6 (Standard or De Luxe) was intended primarily for export to European markets where engines were taxed heavily based on displacement (such as France). But it seems most 2.8 litre cars remained in the UK. If you were French and could afford a Jaguar, you could usually stump up the extra cost running an XJ6 4.2 involved.

Nonetheless, there’s at least one surviving XJ6 2.8 in rare Standard specification (as discussed in this article) in France, as recently profiled by a French magazine. And it’s a manual without overdrive, so as base an an XJ6 could be. Somebody was definitely watching their pennies (or centimes) when they ordered it back in 1969. Do any Standard XJ6 2.8 cars survive in the UK?

Chris Cowin

9 Comments

  1. I’d sooner save up and buy the De Luxe model, as £100, even in 1969, wouldn’t be much to a well off car buyer. Somehow a Jaguar with posh vinyl seats wouldn’t be the same as one with leather and not having PAS would take the fun out of driving an XJ6.
    While the 3.4 on Series 3 Jags was seen as the entry level model and never sold in great numbers, it kept most of the standard equipment of the 4.2 model, only having cloth instead of leather seats and having slightly less wood. The “basic” XJ6 was still a nice car, with the same ride quality, only slightly less engine refinement than the 4.2, and being capable of 118 mph and over 20 mpg on a long journey.

    • That definitely is why it was offered, as the short stroke XJ6 was known to be a rubbish engine by Jaguar themselves. I know that the Daimler V8 did not have capacity in production, and the cost to produce another engine vs. making the 2.8 on the same machinery as the larger capacity engines was probably a reason why it wasn’t used. Also Bill Lyons didn’t like it, but the V8 was smoother and may have increased sales in those markets with capacity tax systems. However I suspect the other argument was that they expected most of the sales to goto the US, where bigger was better.

      • The fact the 2.8 was produced as it was to reduce costs (the 4.2 not being particularly well regarded over the 3.8), with inevitable results and BL having strange ideas of different marques occupying various displacement categories, undermined what should have been an appealing family of revised short-stroke XK6 engines displacing 2.6-3.0-litres putting out around 160-185 hp (up to maybe 197 hp 3.2-litres or even 3.5-3.6-litres at max).

        Not forgetting as well an updated 2.4-litre XK6 with redesigned inlet port by Harry Weslake that despite improving the output over existing engine never entered production.

        Seen one Jaguar enthusiast posit a thoroughly developed V12 should have been launched with varying capacities from a 4.2-litre (removing the need for the 4.2-litre XK6) up to a 6.4-litre V12, the larger unit being experimented with by Harry Mundy and in theory allowing for a suitable 2.1-3.2-litre+ six to be developed to replace the revised short-stroke XK6 units.

  2. Moving to more recent times, I saw a Jag X Type diesel saloon which had plastic JAG motif wheelcovers on its steel wheels. To me that detracted from the car’s image when most cars now have alloys as standard spec

  3. My dad. Had 2.8 in 1974 in lavender blue my dad paid £1500 with 37000 miles
    Very nice car but engine drop a valve
    It so smooth like driving on air

  4. Hi
    My dad had a jag mk 9 back in the early 60s, then a jag mk2 3.8 .Then got a xj12Lmk2 in the mid 70s.
    Have so many memories ,loved the smell of leather,felt great being driven around as a kid , teenager. Great times .

  5. I think to have the proper XJ6 experience, the car would need leather seats, wood everywhere, a list of standard equipment similar to a Rolls Royce, and automatic transmission, or the later five speed manual on the 3.4. The standard probably only sold to those desperate to have an XJ6 and a Jaguar with vinyl seats wasn’t going to cut it against rivals from Rover, Ford and Vauxhall that all had leather seats.

  6. Of course back then, owning a Jaguar was beyond many peoples reach, so if you could at least afford an entry level XJ6, externally it would look nearly comparable to the higher spec car. So was that better than no Jag at all?

    Back in those days cars like the Cresta & Viscount had leather seats but my Dad’s VX4/90 had the Ambla seats

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